NEW BRITAIN, Conn – The Sacred Heart Pioneers scored four runs with two outs in the ninth inning to tie Central Connecticut State and then walked off for an 8-7 win in 13 innings Thursday afternoon at CCSU Baseball Field. The second game of the scheduled doubleheader was suspended in the top of the seventh inning with SHU trailing the Blue Devils 4-3. With the win in game one, the Pioneers clinched a berth into their sixth consecutive NEC Tournament. SHU is now 12-9 in the NEC this season.
A week after winning NEC Co-pitcher of the Week, junior right-hander James Cooksey (Norwalk, CT) was once again masterful for the Pioneers. The side-throwing reliever did not allow a run in all four extra innings, improving to 5-1 on the season. With the four scoreless innings, Cooksey lowered his NEC-leading ERA to 1.01 in 53.2 innings this season.
Senior right-hander Kody Kerski (Waterbury, CT) earned a no-decision after allowing four runs in 7.1 innings.
CCSU struck first in the fourth inning with starting pitcher Dom Severino smacking a two-run home run over the left field wall to give the Blue Devils an early 2-0 lead.
The Pioneers thundered back in the sixth, as sophomore Jayson Sullivan (Charlton, NY) blasted his fourth home run of the season to give SHU a 3-2 lead. Freshman Zack Short (Hurley, NY) and sophomore Jesus Medina (New York, NY) started the inning with back-to-back hits.
Back and forth all afternoon long, CCSU stormed back with four runs in the eighth. Franklin Jennings started the rally with double to left-center field. Following a walk to Anthony Turgeon, and a SHU pitching change, Josh Ingham knocked a two-run base knock to center field to push CCSU up 4-3. Then after a SHU error extended the error, back-to-back RBI singles from Connor Fitzsimons and Nick Hayes gave CCSU a 6-3 lead.
The Blue Devils added another insurance run in the eighth with another RBI base hit by Ingham.
Down four with two outs in the ninth, the Pioneers saved the best for last. With the bases loaded and two down, Short knocked a base hit through the left side to cut the lead to three runs. Sullivan followed with a clutch double through the left-center field gap to clear the bases and tie CCSU at seven. Then after a SHU error extended the error, back-to-back RBI single from Connor Fitzsimons and Hayes gave CCSU a 6-3 lead.
The Pioneers and Blue Devils exchanged zeros for three extra innings before SHU was able to strike in the 13th. Ted Shaw (Southington, CT) took it upon himself to end the marathon, tripling to left-center field and then scoring the game-winning run on a CCSU wild pitch.
In game two of the afternoon, CCSU jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top half of the first inning on a Turgeon home run to right field.
SHU immediately came right back with two of their own in the bottom of half of the first. After Medina walked to start the rally, Short and Sullivan knocked singles to cut the lead to 2-1. Sullivan notched hit seventh RBI of the afternoon. The Pioneers then tied the game at two on a Matt Charmello (Rossmoor, CA) fielder's choice.
Sacred Heart added another run in the bottom of the fourth to take back the lead. Charmello started the rally with a double to left-center field. After back-to-back outs, freshman Keith Klebart (Orange, CT) knocked an infield single to score Charmello and take a 3-2 lead.
Down once again in the sixth, the Blue Devils came back with two more runs to take the lead. Ingham was once again in on the action, tripling home a run to tie the game at three. After an intentional walk to Severino, Pat Sirois singled home Ingham and CCSU led 4-3.
The Pioneers will resume game two of the series tomorrow afternoon, starting in the top half of the seventh with no outs.